If you have been anywhere online in 2016 you surely would have seen the number of people categorising 2016 as the year of unprecedented loss, pain and death. Admittedly it does feel like the world has lost some very good people this year, both famous and unheralded, influential to the many or to the few, but always a shattering loss to someone.
For us 2016 has certainly been a year of ups and downs, unprecedented highs and devastating lows, the juxtaposition of our plans and his purposes.
The year began on a high with Em and I on a 21-day European tour, visiting 11 countries as well as a week in London and Paris with Em’s best friend, Kirsten, and her husband. The tour was perfectly planned and we saw so many amazing places, expanded our minds with historic and geographical knowledge and met some great people from around the world that we still catch up with.
We visited Uluru, Kata-Tjuta and Kings Canyon with my family in April and had a fantastic time and were planning another trip for Em’s 30th birthdday next year.
It was another great year for me at WCC, with over 40 musical events run from my department, many new students engaged, new ensembles thriving, state topping perfect scores in VCE Music classes and Top Class performers scheduled for the 2017 season.
At home we installed two new air conditioners, which have certainly paid for themselves over the last few nights. The house is much more of a home with a feature photo wall of the whole extended family, we were gifted a piano, bought a new Christmas tree and we have spent a good amount of time cleaning, clearing, sorting and getting on top of our life.
But the defining moment of 2016 will forever be meeting our son Joshua Levi George. A brave little man who was with us for too short a time, but made a lifelong impact on us. Josh was our little champion who we watched grow from a tiny ‘Who-sized’ speck to a perfect hugging size little dude with massive hands and feet, who was flawless in every way. With well over 2000 photos of his development and adventures he is well documented. The 24 weeks we watched him grow were such a joy, he was defiant, making scans that usually take 10 minutes, last 3 hours because he would not move to the right position even after being fed lollies as incentive. His photo proudly, and still does, adorn our living room table as we celebrate the best thing we have ever done. Unfortunately, his time of developing was a little too short and being born at 24 weeks, he didn’t get to spend any time growing old with us in this life but instead opened his eyes to see Jesus, which is even better. We held his perfect little body for 3 days before we thanked him for coming to us and let God have him back fully to serve in what we believe was a far more important calling.
There was so much pain, devastation and anguish as we had to let go of something we created, never really had but valued above anything we could have ever wanted. The joy of holding my son was unlike anything I have ever felt, a pleasure that will never be forgotten.
I have been astonished at how many times over the past 3 months, verses I memorised as a new Christian 10 years ago have come back to me as the most important verses for this season of my life. Joshua was named because of a verse in the book of Joshua that states “This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Our Josh was a courageous little guy who made some tough decisions for us on a day we couldn’t ever have imagined and would not wish upon anyone. We will live our life comforted to know that he, like God, will always be with us. This verse was one of the first Em ever really memorised. She put up on her shower door, wrote on books and has lent on it through many tough times over the years.
I remember back to earlier in my time when Proverbs 19:21 played a small but now seemingly significant part in my story. I purchased a photo frame as a new Christian to put a photo of my then girlfriend in with this verse printed on it: ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.’ Well how right it was, not only did I go on to follow my plan to marry and build a life and future with this girl but in the process of that future took a huge hit by, hopefully graciously, fulfilling what we assume is God’s bigger purpose for taking Josh away from us too early.
I listen to a lot of Christian sermon podcasts while doing other things during my week. Even though my attention may be on driving to a gig, going for run or cleaning the house, I always tune in right at the moment I need to hear, God always has the right message for me and usually the sermon has nothing to do with my specific circumstance but has a one liner that smacks me in the face and has even made me pull off the road to process a time or two.
I find no coincidence in the fact that the last podcast I will have listened to for 2016 is a sermon that hit me with the lines:
“You don’t have to understand the plan to trust that God has a purpose. You don’t have to understand to continue to trust in the goodness of God.”
2016 has had a roller-coaster of both blissful and bumpy moments for many people including my small family. I’ve learnt that your world can be drastically altered in a matter of seconds, you can have life one minute and it be gone 10 minutes later, you can be on top of the world planning your future and setting up baby nursing chairs and the next not knowing how you are ever going to move again. Life has always been a series of moments, some to be grateful for and some too painful to speak of, but the pain is always only temporary.
Moments take time, some take a short second to experience or get over, some take 3 months to even talk about, some take years to process or move on from, some will never be forgotten and some specific wounds will never heal. I know God has a plan for us as a family, a plan for Josh and a purpose for why 2016 happened the way it did. He promises us: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
2016 had hope, it had prosperity, it had vast plans and it had a giant future. Yes it had hurt but hurt can’t harm unless you hold onto it longer than you should. We will never forget Josh, because we choose to hold onto the joy he bought to our family and the legacy he leaves for his (hopefully one day) brothers and sisters.
I don’t have to understand the plan to trust that God has a purpose. I don’t have to understand to continue to trust in the goodness of God.
I hope you can look back on your 2016 and see joy amongst the pain, triumph amongst defeat and a purpose amongst the plan.
Happy New Year, may 2017 be your year of ‘hope and a future’.